Scholar Stories: Roxana Daylen Dueñas

How do you use writing or art in your life?

Right now, I see writing as a place for self-reflection, mindfulness, healing and space-taking. I recently started a practice of journaling daily. While this writing is only for me, I still feel it is a way of taking up space in a world that often keeps us busy focusing on everything but ourselves. Honest self-reflection can be rigorous and transformative.

Similarly, when I ask my ethnic studies students to write, whether informal reflections or our end of year book writing project, I remind students that writing about their lives and sharing their thoughts is powerful. In ethnic studies we learn about the histories that have been excluded from textbooks. When my students write, I want them to know that no matter how extraordinary, devastating, or even ordinary their experiences are, they deserve to be documented–written as part of history. When our students have published their work in the past, I remind them they are writing history. They deserve to take up that space.  

What lessons/teachings from your family, home and/or community do you draw on in your teaching and/or scholarship?

My mother is the best storyteller. Sometimes, when I am teaching or speaking to small or large groups, I find pieces of her in my tone, my gesturing, and inflection. Listening to my mother share stories, big or small, reminds me that we all have stories to tell; that we all deeply desire (and deserve) to be seen and heard; that we can find humor in less than ideal circumstances; that we can learn to tell our own stories by watching others share their own. History is storytelling. I always want my students to know that their story, their history matters, and it deserves to be told. That we can all listen to each other’s stories.  

What would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that she is whole and worthy exactly as she is. That she is not too much or not enough. That her quirks and her big feelings are strengths and not something to be ashamed of. I would tell her her worth is not based on what she can produce or how many gold stars she can collect. I would also tell her to read more; to find ways to engage in creative expression. I would tell her I love her. 

Advice for new scholars and/or teachers:

As a new teacher, finding a community of educators who I shared similar values with changed everything. It allowed me to learn from my peers. It created a space where I could create curriculum, grow as an educator, and grow as an activist. Having educator friends, I can vent with, create, learn, and imagine with, has made all the difference. In community we help each other out when it gets difficult, and more often than not, it can be difficult. I am grateful for the community I can lean on and learn from.

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